By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
The Local Organizing Committees (LOCs) across the nation are in the final stages of planning for the 20th Anniversary observance of the Million Man March (MMM) in Washington, D.C. October 10.
Local and national LOC leaders say they expect over one million Black men, women and children to converge on the National Mall on that day.
Nation of Islam (NOI) national leader, the Honorable Louis Farrakhan, has called for the 20th anniversary observance with the theme “Justice or Else.”
This October marks the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March, the clarion call to action for Black men across the country held in Washington, D.C. on October 16, 1995.
Organizers of three days of events associated with this year’s event say it will be a testament to the ongoing commitment to the holy day of atonement, reconciliation and responsibility initiated 20 years ago. This year’s event is expected to reinvigorate the call to action and community involvement Farrakhan called for in 1995.
Minister Ernest Muhammad is the Student Minister of the Muhammad Study Group 57 of Norfolk’s NOI unit. He is also the co-chair of the Hampton Roads LOC.
Muhammad said the 20th anniversary of the MMM is of Biblical proportions as the Black community has been battered by the winds of poverty, incarceration and dysfunction of the family.
“Enough is enough,” he said. “We are now going to the (Pharaoh) seat of federal power to demand some support and reparations for helping to build his world.”
Muhammad said that African Americans after October 10’s rally should consider using their economic power by withholding it to secure laws and support which will uplift the Black community.
Also, he said, Blacks should “reinvest their talent and resources to uplift and strengthen their own communities.”
NOI member Frank Muhammad is the chair of the LOC organizing effort on the Peninsula. He said he is networking with similar groups on the Southside and in Franklin.
On September 28, Muhammad said LOCs are seeking to fill the seats on buses to transport people to Washington, D.C., in the early morning hours of October 10.
He said at least six buses will roll from the Newport News/Hampton area and a similar number and more, he hopes, will be filled with people from the Southside.
But he said that a week before the march, filling the buses has been slow. He said he expects many individuals and families are planning to use their own transportation to the nation’s capital to attend the march. He said that hotel rooms are being booked at a respectable clip.
Twenty years ago, participants were discouraged from seeking to drive near the event on the national mall. Hundreds of buses and private automobiles were parked at sites like the RFK stadium, and people commuted to the mall via the subway system.
Muhammad, who has been a member of the NOI since 1973, like other people who plan on attending the MMM, believes the staging of the event this year comes at a very crucial time in the history of African-Americans and the nation.
Twenty years ago during the final speech delivered at the MMM gathering, Minister Farrakhan told participants to go back home and make a difference in their communities, join churches, the NAACP, and mentor and uplift the youth.
Many did, for there was a surge in voter registration, church attendance and creation of groups for support and dialogue, not only among men, but women, as well.
Twenty years ago, after he attended the MMM in D.C., Muhammad returned home to mentor Black youth. His wife helped organize a female support group called “Sister to Sister.” Both became involved in outreach to churches and civic organizations “to make a difference in our community.”
“The ‘Justice or Else’ theme calls for economic and social justice, not just for African-Americans, but Hispanics, poor Whites and other groups who are being denied justice,” said Muhammad. “We are not only dealing with economic Injustice, but police brutality.
“Also fratricide in our community,” he continued. “We have got to stop the killing of each other. This is why we not only want men to attend this meeting but the entire family.”
Carl Wright is the current President of the Virginia Beach NAACP.
He said that prior to attending the MMM in 1995, he was not involved in the civil rights group.
“I was wondering what I needed to do to make a difference,” said Wright. “This is a very important time for Black people, socially and politically. I am hoping that twice as many people will show up this time. Further this is a time for us to celebrate us and who we are as a people. No one wants to do that. There are people who want us to be ashamed of our history and contributions.”
Seko Varner is involved in a number of community service organizations related to uplifting adults and youth, including the Goldenfold Mentoring Program, which is sponsoring a bus to the MMM, hopefully filled with a good mix of youth and adults.
Varner said that he arrived at the MMM in 1995 early and was tired from the long ride from Hampton Roads.
“I fell asleep … standing there in the huge crowd,” Varner recalled. “When I awoke, two brothers were standing on either side of me holding me up. Someone was helping me stand and holding my weight. That was so symbolic because I was not harmed and two other Black men were standing at my side, ensuring my safety.”
This year Varner said he will take his son with him to the march.
One of the outcomes of Varner’s and other Black men’s participation in the MMM in 1995 was the growth in mentoring and fatherhood programs. On November 16 the Virginia Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi will host its annual Fatherhood Conference at Green Run High School starting at 6 p.m.
“I hope this MMM will spur interest in fatherhood and economic development so we can employ ourselves and create avenues so people can acquire and retain employment,” Varner said.
Varner said there was a surge in the number of Black children who were adopted after the 1995 version of the MMM.
He noted that although there are programs in place, more efforts are needed to assist individuals returning home from prison to secure employment “so they will not be returning to jail.”
For more information about buses to the MMM on October 10, call (757) 715-3050 on the Peninsula. On the Southside, contacts are the NorfolkBranchNAACP@gmail.com or (757) 749-3398; SandraWilliams256@gmail.com or (757) 447-8871.
For tickets aboard the GoldenFold charter bus sponsored by the Gamma Xi Uplift Foundation, call (757) 932-0177 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Bus tickets are $25 for middle, high school and college students (21 and under), and $40 for adults.